Tagged in: Middleweight

Adesanya still champ with TKO of Costa

Israel Adesanya once again proved his power in the middleweight division with a second-round TKO victory over Paulo Costa in the main event of UFC 253 on Saturday.

The champion was in the driver’s seat for the first round. Costa showed some patience in waiting to commit to an attack but Adesanya took advantage of that wait-and-see approach by peppering him with leg kicks. 

Costa was more interested in goading Adesanya into throwing more than actually throwing much himself. The second round featured a more aggressive Adesanya and that was all kinds of bad news for the Eraser.

The Last Stylebender opened up, continued to mercilessly attack the lead leg while also throwing head kicks. When he targeted the head with punches Costa quickly buckled and the champion added another successful title defense to his name. 

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It was as baffling a presentation for Paulo Costa as it was a great performance for Adesanya.

The champion was certainly dominant but Costa’s lack of activity and inability to mount any offense had analysts wondering what happened to the Borrachina that mowed over each of his opponents to this point. 

Adesanya has already made quick work of a loaded middleweight division. His list of victories includes Anderson Silva (albeit an older version of The Spider), Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero. There are some highly ranked contenders out there, but only one has the champion’s eye right now.

“There’s one more I’m really interested in and that’s Jared Cannonier,” Adesanya stated, per Thomas Gerbasi of UFC.com. Cannonier has put together three consecutive wins by TKO and has a fight calendared with former champion Whittaker in October.

Adesanya will be watching that matchup very carefully, but at this point, it’s hard to find someone in the division he won’t be favored against.

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Brunson stops Shahbazyan by third round TKO

The only way to the top of UFC’s middleweight division is through Derek Brunson. On Saturday, he slammed that door shut for a red-hot prospect.

Brunson stopped Edmen Shahbazyan via TKO 26 seconds into the third round in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

The previously unbeaten Shahbazyan had all the hype coming in as the former training partner of UFC legend Ronda Rousey. But Brunson nearly finished him at the end of the second round and then did so early in the third.

The card took place with no fans at the UFC Apex, a facility owned by the promotion right across from its corporate campus. It was the first event in the United States after a month-long run in July on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which was dubbed Fight Island.

Brunson said in his post-fight interview that he was disappointed he was a heavy underdog. He said he is 3-0 since going to train under coach Henri Hooft at Sanford MMA — and recalled advice Hooft gave him when he first got to the South Florida gym.

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Brunson was a +290 underdog coming in.

This was the largest upset in a UFC main event since Michael Bisping (+400) knocked out Luke Rockhold to collect the UFC middleweight title at UFC 199 in 2016, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

When the third round started, Brunson started his onslaught again. He came forward with a big left hand, took Shahbazyan down and landed more ground-and-pound. This time, Dean had a quick hook and called it off, awarding Brunson a TKO.

Brunson said his instant thoughts were going home to see his family after being apart for the past four weeks while training. He said he will start thinking about his next opponent with his coaches within a week.

Brunson (21-7) is considered one of the strongest outs in the middleweight division. The North Carolina native is on a three-fight winning streak. Brunson, 36, has lost only to current or former champions since 2016: Israel Adesanya, Robert Whittaker, Anderson Silva and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

Brunson is now tied with three others for the third-most finishes in UFC middleweight history with eight. UFC president Dana White stated he was impressed with Brunson’s performance.

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UFC sets Adesanya-Costa for Sept. 19

UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will face Paulo Costa at UFC 253, per Combate.

Ariel Helwani of ESPN confirmed the report and said that a location is to be determined for the fight, which is slated for Sept. 19.

Adesanya holds a perfect 19-0 record (8-0 UFC). Fourteen of his victories have come via knockout. His most recent fight occurred at UFC 248 in March versus Yoel Romero, which ended with a unanimous-decision win.

The fourth-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in UFC’s rankings will take on the No. 2 middleweight contender in Costa, who is also undefeated (13-0) and coming off a unanimous-decision victory over Romero.

Mike Bohn of MMA Junkie confirmed that both fighters’ camps have agreed to a fight.

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The UFC 253 card will include fights between Mackenzie Dern and Randa Markos, Hakeem Dawodu and Zubaira Tukhugov and Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Ciryl Gane, per Bohn.

But the main event should have plenty of fireworks, and the lead-in might be epic. As Helwani noted, the two have exchanged a “war of words” since last year.

Of note, Costa’s manager, Wallid Ismail, told Cole Shelton of BJPenn.com that Adesanya had rejected fights versus Costa for UFC 251 and 252.

“UFC offered Adesanya to fight on July 11 and August 15 and Adesanya declined both times,” Ismail said. His coach claims Adesanya hasn’t gotten an offer which is not true. We have proof.”

The two fighters will be facing off in two months, however, as one of the more anticipated MMA matchups of the year is set to take place. The fight will mark just the second time in UFC history that two undefeated males fight for an undisputed title.

The first time was back in 2008 when champion Rashad Evans defended the light heavyweight title against Lyoto Machida at UFC 98.

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